For those of you who haven't heard of Hasselblad, they were one of the first cameras used to shoot from space and are known today to be one of the top medium format companies around. With a recent release of their X1D II and a unique digital back for their v-system, what is it like to shoot with one of these cameras?
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to try out the Hasselblad X1D for a review. After trying that camera out for the first time, I was happy with my first Hasselblad experience. Everything from the feel of the camera to the image quality it produced really had me feeling good about what I was shooting. In a way, when I shoot with a Hasselblad, I feel like I am shooting on a film camera... and that's what makes me love this camera so much.
Feel and Interface
The Hasselblad X1D II is made of some pretty sturdy material, even its aluminum lens hood will make you feel like you are holding some sort of beast. The simple design of this camera makes it really easy to understand and use, while the touch screen interface makes it extremely easy to navigate the menus and adjust the settings. In fact, the touch screen on this camera is literally as good as the touch screen on a smartphone, very responsive and accurate.
The X1D II was designed to be an overall upgrade from the X1D. Some of the new features include a brighter, more vivid 3.6" 1024x768 touchscreen versus the previous 3" 640x480 touchscreen, an improved OLED electronic view finder (EVF), 46% speedier boot-up time and access to the menu while using the EVF. Though these upgrades may not look so great in text, they do make a pretty big difference when it comes to shooting with this camera.
The autofocus was also slightly improved but the X1D II is only okay compared to faster cameras like the Sony a7 line. However, Hasselblad isn't really built to focus quick, it's more of a camera you take the time to shoot with. That being said, when I was out shooting, I used the autofocus a lot and it worked very well for the most part until it was in lower light. Once it was a bit darker, I noticed a little trouble with the autofocus speed but ended up switching it to manual focus and having some fun.
With a 50mp medium format sensor, quality might as well become your middle name, at least when you are holding this camera. Compared to my Sony a7R III with a 42mp full frame sensor, the Hasselblad does have many advantages when it comes to quality. One of those advantages being sensor size alone. With a sensor 4x the size of a 35mm (full frame), photos from the Hasselblad can be enlarged significantly without losing quality. You also get better tonality (color gradations) and more detail due to the sensor size.
This was a test for the X1D II in the sense that a medium format camera may take a higher quality image, but it is not as versatile as something like the Sony a7 lineup. For low light photography with the Hasselblad, I would recommend being on a tripod to get the shots you want. The darker it is, the harder it is to autofocus and the more you have to adjust your ISO and other settings which may add noise to the image. I was able to take this camera out for a sunrise shoot and capture some images of the NYC skyline. The camera performed very well while it was on a tripod and taking 20-90 second exposures.
One of my favorite parts about the X1D II compared to my Sony a7R III is that you can set the amount of time you'd like to shoot for rather than setting it to "BULB," you can just scroll to the desired amount of time you want to have the shutter open for. This comes in handy for those long exposure photographers out there because you don't always need a remote, app, or timer to get the shot you want.
When shooting on this camera, you do have to pay attention to your exposure. One of my ways around this was to be sure the exposure meter was fairly balanced before capturing my image. It may look good and bright in the viewfinder, but you can over expose or under expose if you aren't paying enough attention. Again, with the quality of the sensor and editing capabilities, it isn't the biggest deal but I always prefer to get the image to look as best as I can with a single exposure.
What I Liked
- Feel, look and build quality
- Image quality
- Ability to edit
What I didn't Like
- Autofocus speed
While this ended up being a very fun camera to shoot with, I wouldn't recommend this camera for the average joe who is just starting up with photography. This is certainly a camera for a special someone who likes to have quality on their side. While the X1D II may not be as versatile as other full frame sensors, it really isn't meant to compete. This camera has a certain feel to it that makes you think and focus more on the stills you are shooting while providing you with the quality of a medium format.
Coming in at a price point of $5750, it stacks up fairly well against Fujifilm's GFX50 line. I personally think the Hasselblad has a better look to it, it is more modern than vintage. That being said, I think both brands have a good product and it really comes down to what the photographer is looking for.
What do you think of the Hasselblad X1D II? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.